Almost a decade ago, I designed a PowerPoint template for use in my history courses. This summer, I rebuilt it from the ground up. Among other improvements, the new version of the template incorporates a new open typeface from the Braille Institute of America, Atkinson Hyperlegible, which should improve readability across different contexts.
I have decided to make this improved design available to other instructors and students under a Creative Commons license. I named the template “Retrovisibility.” It’s designed for the PC version of Microsoft’s PowerPoint desktop software.
This template exists, in the first place, because I hated the garish decorations and other maximalist design choices in off-the-shelf PowerPoint templates. With large text and careful use of empty space, Retrovisibility also helps the presenter resist the temptations of wordiness. But most importantly, it’s built for the humanities classroom.
With a variety of slide layouts, Retrovisibility provides easy ways to display (and label) images, videos, block quotations, and other primary sources. Special static layouts are useful for displaying bibliographies. The most distinctive feature is the way images are incorporated: Each layout allows the user to include background illustrations for visual context, creating a more immersive and cinematic presentation.
Retrovisibility has been designed for use in history classrooms, but it is likely also to be useful as a basis for presentations in anthropology, art history, cultural studies, literature, philosophy, and other humanities disciplines. You’re welcome to use it (and modify it) for any such non-commercial educational purposes.
Because WordPress.com does not host PowerPoint template (.potx) files, the template is provided as a presentation (.pptx) file instead. You will need to save it as a presentation template. Please click here for instructions about saving a PowerPoint template on your own computer.
This template is provided as-is. I cannot guarantee how it will work for any user.
The best results are likely if you use a recent desktop edition of Microsoft PowerPoint on a Windows PC (both to prepare your presentation and to project it in the classroom). The template is designed for widescreen (16:9) displays.
Important: Retrovisibility results in large file sizes for the slideshows you create. This is particularly true if you choose to include high-resolution background images. A slideshow for an hourlong presentation may become a 50+ MB file. This will be impractical for many users.
For the most consistent results, you should install Atkinson Hyperlegible on any computer you use to prepare slideshows. Installing this font on your classroom computer, however, should not be necessary as long as you embed the font when you save a slideshow. (If you aren’t familiar with what it means to embed a font in a PowerPoint presentation, I recommend learning.)
If you use Retrovisibility on computers running Windows, it should embed Atkinson Hyperlegible in your presentations by default when you save them. However, embedding fonts is possible for only some Mac users.
The current version of Retrovisibility addresses a number of accessibility limitations found in earlier versions. However, I should offer two words of caution.
First, the use of background images can pose problems for some readers. Retrovisibility is designed to minimize those problems in a typical presentation environment: a slightly dimmed classroom with a projector screen. (The template uses three elements to differentiate text from background: a 65% opacity layer, a thin border around each character, and a subtle drop shadow.) On an LCD display, background images may be more intrusive, and the template may require adjustments.
Second, this template is optimized for use in the classroom, not for direct distribution to students. Most design decisions have been made with the physical classroom in mind. That is an area in which the template could be improved.
If you’ve used Retrovisibility and are willing to offer comments, please use the contact form. I’m grateful for any information that could make this template better.